Thursday, September 30, 2010

Brotherly Love

I'm stealing linking this story from Brownie over at Joy and Gladness: Encounter with the Police.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Dead Bird in Lake Wobegon

The boys slept late Tuesday morning. Monday nights are Civil Air Patrol nights, and they usually sleep late on Tuesday mornings. But they had been up for a while before I finally dragged myself out of bed. They had already eaten, so I set BB to work on loading the dishwasher and GL on reading while I made my breakfast and coffee. When BB was done, I sent him to take a shower so GL could finish his handwriting before BB needed the table. That's when I discovered GL had colored on my laptop with a permanent marker. Papa Bear was not a happy camper!

Don Aslett's Stainbuster's Bible, which has saved my bacon many, many times, and paid for itself many times over in items it has rescued, wasn't much help at first. It began by saying not to get your hopes up. There's a reason these markers are called permanent. The treatment for felt-tip markers is to start by hoping you were mistaken, and it was only a washable marker. So you start with the treatment for washable marker. The first step is "dry spotter". That's any spray-on stain remover that says it's for greasy stains. That lightened it ever-so-slightly, but wasn't taking out any more no matter how much I applied or how long I scrubbed. So I read the next step: laundry pretreat plus a few drops of ammonia then machine launder in warm water. On my laptop? Not going to happen.

Let's see the next step: treat it as permanent marker. Okaaaay, and that would mean? "Don't get your hopes up, but... rub in Cutter Insect Repellent lotion, wait a few minutes, then rinse with water. Pretest first, and don't use Cutter on Spandex, rayon, acetate, plastic, vinyl, or paint." Great. Just great. My laptop, which I bought this summer, is going to spend the rest of its life looking like it belongs to a twelve-year-old. Why don't I just cover up that marker with some nice skateboarding stickers?

But wait. Don always gives a last-ditch "if that doesn't work" treatment. Usually, if you get that far, the stain isn't coming out anyway. But if it's partly gone this may lighten it some. Or destroy the garment. And for markers, this step was... Sponge with alcohol. Easy enough. Shouldn't damage the plastic. Worth a try, but don't bet the farm. I tried it, and most of the marker wiped right off! A second application removed all but a faint trace--a tiny smudge on the bottom. Don Aslett saves the day again!

GL finished up his work relatively quickly and painlessly, and BB got right down to business, so I had high hopes that despite our late start, we'd have a fairly productive day. We needed one because this was one of only two days this week that we don't have to go somewhere. Even if it's after school hours, leaving the house always puts a damper on productivity for the day. Even a short trip, if it's in the middle of the day, can blow a gaping hole through the middle of our most productive hours.

BB wasn't especially fast, but he was plugging along steadily. While not exactly enjoyable, that's better than his slow days, which are more like beating one's head against a wall, only with less opportunity for short-term reward. GL spent most of the day in his room, watching a Sesame Street DVD.

Then the neighbor kids got home. The younger kids GL befriended this summer. They're not usually here during the week; they come about two weekends a month. GL had to go out and play with them. Fine. But they wanted BB to come out, too. They sent GL to ask him. To his credit, BB said no, he wasn't done with school. When you're in sixth grade, and you don't get started until 10:30, you'll probably still have some work left at 3:00. But  how do you explain that to a six year old who doesn't know anything but public school, and is used to getting his way by nagging? They kept sending GL back in to ask again. Since he doesn't understand who's in charge most of the time, he'll usually do anything anybody asks him, however unreasonable. He saves his rebellion for the reasonable demands of people who actually are in charge. I told GL he could explain that BB had to do his "homework" first, but they weren't buying it. By this time, BB was so frustrated with them, he wouldn't have played with them anyway.

Then they found the bird. They thought it was dead. They poked it with a stick and told (dared?) GL to touch it. MB heard them, and told them and GL to leave it alone. I looked out the window. It was a woodpecker. Probably a Downy or a Hairy. Those are the two we get most often, and I tend to forget which  is bigger. I offered to go out and bury it. I got a spade from the shed and started to dig. "Do you always bury birds?"the older kid, a girl, maybe seven or eight years old, wanted  to know.

"When they're dead, I do." I answered, not mentioning that I'd never found a dead bird since we've lived here. Local animals usually find it first, and don't leave anything to bury. Then I stopped. What if the bird wasn't dead? Birds sometimes crash into our windows. Most of them, and practically all the smaller birds, bounce off the glass, recover in midair, and fly away. Occasionally one will fall to the ground and lie there for a moment, stunned. Since the neighbor with a cat moved out, they generally recover. Was that a breeze stirring its downy feathers, or a slight movement? It was still warm. "Maybe it's not dead. Let's put it over here and if it wakes up, it can fly away later." I found a place off the ground where it could fly away easily if it did in fact wake up, but relatively safe from predators.

The wildlife has been way too bold around here lately. Rabbits let you walk right up to them. They just sit there staring at you and don't run away until you're within three feet of them. Numerous sightings of foxes in town. Not out on the farms and country roads served by our post office, but right in town, where the houses and stores are right next to each other. There's a badger living under the neighbors' shed, and we live right in the middle of town.

Mama Bear left for work. I went inside, washed my hands, and sat down to check my blogs. Near the window, so I could keep an eye on the kids. They decided to hit GL with sticks. He decided to stand there and take it. Since they are about six and eight, and he's thirteen, and they had very small sticks, there wasn't any actual harm, but it was a bad precedent, so I went out and told them, "No hitting people with sticks." They stopped. I went back inside. A few minutes later, GL was chasing them with a stick. Just chasing, not hitting, and they were all having a good time, but you know that's the part someone would see and report. And GL has just enough social skills to dig himself a deeper hole. So I went back out and repeated: "No hitting people with sticks!"

I decided maybe now would be a good time to clean the shed. I'd been meaning to do it anyway, the weather was good, and who knows how much more good weather we'll get this year? And I could keep an eye on things. I decided to start by taking down the tent from the boy's campout  last weekend. I had the poles out and had just started to fold it when BB came out. He had finished his schoolwork, and wanted me to put on a DVD. He's not allowed to change discs because if he does, GL thinks he can, too.

When I came back from changing the DVD, the neighbor kids had gone back in for supper.*

*At least some families still eat supper together. Pre-Autism, we were religious about it. But as GL's sensory sensitivities appeared, there were fewer and fewer foods he could tolerate. So we usually ended up cooking a separate meal for him, which he often didn't eat anyway. With his weight generally low, almost unhealthy, we tried anything we could think of to get him to eat, and offered food any time he might possibly eat it. He still has a limited selection of foods, but he can prepare most of them himself, and maintaining enough weight is no longer a problem. Have you ever sat with a group of people when they're all eating, and you're not? When you're eating, you don't notice it, but when you're not, watching other people eat is really kinda gross. He hasn't sat down and eaten a meal with the rest of us more than a dozen times in the last five years.

Then when Mama Bear went to work, she was on a different schedule than the rest of us, and always eating at a different time. We tried adjusting to her schedule, but it never worked. Then BB started learning to prepare a few of his favorites. So I'm usually cooking for one or at most, two. When it happens that we all eat at the same time, it feels strange. Once recently, we all happened to sit down at the same time and eat the same thing. It was enjoyable, but doubly strange.
 After supper, the neighbor kids got in the car and went somewhere with their dad. They didn't come back until after the boys were in bed. Once the boys were in bed, I went and checked on the woodpecker. It was keepin' on it's back. To quote Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! er, woodpecker. Its neck was broken.

Since it was still lying on it's back, I figured I'd get my bird book and have a closer look for a positive ID. It had the long bill of a Hairy Woodpecker, but it was less than 6 inches long--more the size of a Downy Woodpecker. It looked like it was molting. Maybe a juvenile Hairy? But it had a red patch on its throat. The only similar bird I could find with a red throat was the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Yes, that's the actual name of a real bird. But this bird had no yellow on it that I could see. Looking at the bird book again today, that yellow is rather subtle. I got the spade out again and set to digging.

Our yard has about an inch of topsoil over clay hardpan. Even the flower beds, after years of working, have only an inch and a half to two inches. How do I grow vegetables? Compost. But I wasn't too keen on burying the bird in my vegetable garden or compost pile.

You know what dry weather does to clay. You can tell how much rain we've had lately by how busy our birdbath is. I keep clean water in the birdbath. I've had to fill the birdbath or change the water every day this week. This was going to be a lot more work than I thought. And if I didn't bury deep enough, some animal would dig it up. I ended up throwing it in the dumpster. I didn't feel right about that, either, but I figured it was better than having something dig it up and possibly leave parts of it for GL to find. There's no telling how he'd react. He might be hysterical with grief. Or he might want to carry around some ex-woodpecker parts in his pockets for a souvenir.

I got cleaned up and did some laundry. It's harder to keep up on now because our dryer doesn't work right. It dries just fine, but it doesn't shut off, so you can't throw a load in before you leave the house or when you go to bed. You have to set a timer, and make sure you're there to shut it off. MB got home and wanted to work on her jewelry for a while. It's a relaxing outlet for her, and she makes some beautiful stuff. She's been selling it on and off for about three years. On and off because she doesn't get enough time to make it and keep up with demand. She started with rolling and baking clay beads, but is slowly moving toward more fine jewelry. At least, I think that's what it's called. It's mostly metal and shiny stones. If you haven't seen it recently, you should take a look. I finally got to look at my blogs. We got to bed around midnight, which is not good when she leaves for work at 6:30.

When we finally got to bed, I asked, "Why do I feel like I've been running from the moment I woke up until now, but I can't remember what I did?"

She said, "When I was the stay-at-home parent, I felt that way every day."

And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

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Rest at its best

This week I took Friday off, so I had a three day weekend. We had so much fun. On Friday Papa & I had the night off, we went to a local hotel & rested. On Saturday we played at home. Brother Bear saw me combing Goldilocks hair & asked to style mine, I laughed so hard I almost cried. The cubs camped in the back yard and we made s’mores inside the house. All very simple pleasures, but I am happier and more refreshed than I have been in months.

Don’t let a bear style your hair.

All snug in “bed”

Who needs a fire?


Friday, September 24, 2010

It’s good to be King Queen

I have a rare weekday off. Papa and I are going into town to stay at a hotel for a night of respite. My day started at 10 am to Papa and the cubs singing a Sesame Street/ Johnny Cash song. I got to sleep in and hear my family sing! I love to hear my family being happy together. I got up, Papa read me the Arby posts I hadn’t had time to read yet, I joked around with Brother Bear and Papa made me my favorite specialty coffee. It’s noon and already had a great day. Thanks be to God, giver of all good things.

Could you help welcome new readers?

I need help because a link on Homeschooling Bloggers Haven has brought some new readers to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I want them to enjoy the same posts as my long-time readers. Would you please list your favorite posts in the Comments? I'll compile them into a "top ten" list (or more, no one says it has to be ten) so new readers can get the flavor of the blog. It will also give me a better idea what you'd like to hear about in future posts.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homeschool Blogs

There's a new Yahoo group devoted to homeschool blogs, Homeschooling Bloggers Haven. While there is some discussion about blogging, the most important feature is the Links page, with dozens (hundreds?) of homeschool blogs organized by category. Check it out!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I've been Reading

Abbi, over at What Sweeter Music, just finished graduate school and now has more “time to read other things that are not class-related.” She asked for recommendations,  "fiction or non-fiction, Improving and Worthwhile or Just Plain Fun." Of course, I couldn't resist. I could have made a list of The Best Books I've Ever Read, but by time I compiled and edited the list, would she have time to read any of them? So I just posted a list of the best books I've read lately:

Recently read:

Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina
Michael Casey
Not just "you should read your Bible" or even a list of readings, but a primer on what the Church Fathers, saints, monks, and ordinary Christians have learned over the last 2,000 years about how best to read the Bible.

It's a Jungle Out There
Ron Snell
While Snell is narrating his own life, this isn't so much an autobiography as a collection of stories about growing up among  the Machiguengas in the jungles of Peru. Riding down a raging river, through deadly rapids, on a log at age nine. Catching exotic pets. Making dugout canoes. Perching in thorn trees at night to escape a herd of stampeding pigs. A quick, fun read.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers
Ralph Moody
This one came highly recommended, but it sat on my shelf for a long time. Another cowboy/pioneer story? I just didn't think I could get into it. Like the Little House books, there is a bit of "this is how we did things back then" but that's only the setting in which young Ralph learns what it means to be a man of character, like his father.

Currently reading:

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide
Susan Senator
I hesitate to recommend a book I haven't finished yet, but so far, it seems to give a pretty accurate picture of what it's like to be the parent of a child with autism. Each chapter is topical, drawing on the stories and experiences of many parents. I can heartily recommend Susan Senator's own story, Making Peace with Autism.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Recognizing Autism

Unlike most children with autism, GL did not develop symptoms before age three. He didn't have terrible twos. He was happy and precocious. Nothing bothered him. But shortly after his third birthday, something new began. He would occasionally, and for no apparent reason, turn into:

None of the usual methods of dealing with tantrums had the least effect. (They worked fine for BB.) At first, we could usually distract him, calm him, and then deal with whatever had set him off. But he became harder and harder to distract, his rages seemed to come out of nowhere, and it got harder and harder to discern what, if anything had set him off. In between times, he was his usual lovable self, but as these rages became more frequent, intense, and lengthy (45 minutes to an hour was not uncommon) it seemed like there was a tiger loose, and GL came out to play less and less often. When we finally got a diagnosis (shortly after his 7th birthday) we were able to get medication to help control these outbursts. It was like putting the tiger back in the cage, so GL could come out to play more often.

Since then, that's been a pretty good measure of how well his meds are working: Tiger time vs. GL time. The quality of the event hasn't changed; he's just gotten bigger, stronger, and more coordinated. He's five feet tall and 120 lbs. He pounds on walls, doors, and people. (We try to keep him away from windows.) We just came through a couple weeks of GL melting down twice a day, and even with medication these meltdowns were lasting over an hour. We got his meds adjusted this week, and things seem to be smoothing out. We'll see.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Family Portrait